Motion E1 (as an amendment to Motion E)

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill - Commons Reasons – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 21st October 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Conservative 5:30 pm, 21st October 2020

My Lords, there are three strong arguments that support my noble friend the Minister’s position and the Government’s decision to seek to reverse the Lords amendment.

The first is the cost, which, as we heard on Report, might be more than £100 million. I know that £100 million seems like tuppence ha’penny after discussions about Covid but it is a very large sum. The movers have brought the cost down by proposing a charge, which the Minister says will be £75 on that basis. We must accept the Government’s figure; I know that the noble Lord, Lord Oates, argued that the cost is less but I am sad to say that, in my experience, government estimates are usually under-estimates rather than the reverse.

The second argument—this is the one that I feel most strongly about—is that there is always a risk of error and enhanced fraud with two versions of the truth, with one online version and one paper version. I do not think that that issue has been addressed properly in our debates.

The third argument, which this House may not like, is that digital is the way of the future; in my experience, everyone emphasises that unless they are pleading for a special case. In the words of my noble friend the Minister, digital by default is what we need because it gives access from anywhere from lots of different digital devices. It is precedented: as we have heard, digital ID has been used in Australia. Moreover, none of us worry about US ESTAs, which have the merit of providing one version of the truth. My noble friend also committed the Government to giving extra support to those who need help coping with the system; I am sure that DWP will also help.

I am afraid that I must disagree with the other noble Lords who have spoken. We should look forward, not back, and reject this proposal.